SOCIOCLAST – Socioclast (2021)REVIEW

I’m plotting revolution against this lie that the majority has a monopoly of the truth. What are these truths that always bring the majority rallying round? Truths so elderly they are practically senile. And when a truth is as old as that, gentlemen, you can hardly tell it from a lie.” Henrik Ibsen, En Folkefiende

If you’re willing to accept the short-lived wave of technical deathgrind that’d sprouted up in the mid-to-late 2000’s as a major directive or, canonized movement in the greater living spheres of grindcore’s underground development since birth in the mid-80’s it’d still be fair to say the well of public interest in grind innovation has dried considerably over the last fifteen or so years. Throw a bit of noise in there, maybe a post-hardcore bridge, or few dissonant black/death metal riffs and you’ve got a couple ‘modern’ ears to twist but, it is nostalgia for 80’s and 90’s energetic simplicity that is the major dictator today. The strategic demolition of the sub-genre back to its first flight of stairs and unto pre-major label notice often means the avid listener is served fairly average ‘side-project status’ bands with a couple of obvious influences and an oddly pervasive misinterpretation of the ‘old school’, which suggests simplicity was the goal and that generic acts were “good enough” to hang. A convenient devolution that often serves us small, easily forgotten reminders that grindcore and deathgrind still rules when 80’s hardcore punk fans get a grip on it. What actually -sticks- any more? Meeting the quality control that the classics offer without simply cut-and-pasting their gig(s). One could easily slot throwback grindcore trio Socioclast in the prime of the late 90’s where a fresh wave of groove metal avoidant deathgrind aimed to fill the shoes of dethroned originators without forgetting to put their own brutal spin on things. I don’t personally consider it derogatory to suggest ‘Socioclast‘ is a nostalgic action and, well, primarily because these San Jose, California-based folks fully capture that feeling when the torch had been handed to a new generation capable of slicker crossover between grind-relevant forms such as powerviolence and death metal.

Formed in 2018 between guitarist Matt Gomes (In Disgust) and drummer Cris Rodriguez (Deadpressure) after their short-lived yet underrated band Altars split-up Socioclast seems to have been an intentional return to the roots of the sub-genre, the stuff that really hangs in their minds as unforgettable. Of course their taste level is way up there as the band cites Assück and Discordance Axis as important influences. The band would find their third member in the key bass/vocals slot via Colin Tarvin of Mortuous and Acephalix. I don’t know how much the final triumvirate changed in the process but the end result, this self-titled ~17 minute grindcore album, but the results are genuinely good, a ripping ride through mid-to-late 90’s grindcore greats. Their style is as informed by early 90’s hardcore as albums like Mule Skinner‘s ‘Abuse’ and Nasum‘s ‘Industrislaven’ but you’ll still get those dissonant crunches and moshable deathgrind hits a la Assück’s ‘Anticapital’ and especially Discordance Axis ‘Jouhou’. Don’t know any of those albums? Think of Terrorizer (or Nausea) taken up a notch, moshing a bit harder and utilizing odd-time signatures here and there without going full-on death metal for more than a song or two. Rhythmically tight and hardcore complex bursts of ~1-3 minute attack with a roaring and shouting vocal that never rises to a shriek (“Propaganda Algorithm”, maybe) epitomize the core appeal of a certain era of grindcore that still pays plenty of nods to both the 80’s and maybe even a hint of powerviolence when things really get anxious.

The running order kept me guessing — The ideas pour from ‘Socioclast’ for the duration of its seventeen minutes and fifteen tracks, to such a degree that I was convinced Socioclast aren’t just a “fun” side-project in between gigs. They’ve gotten this edged-out spectrum of classic grindcore and late 90’s deathgrind entirely right thanks to a no nonsense approach that never forgets to whip along at a true extreme metal pace. The greater Earhammer Studios rendered experience of it all is dark, dystopian but still notably punch-heavy when all rolls up to a blast, and when it comes time to whip out a death metal song, such as album closer “Concrete and Steel” all the right pieces fall into place. Any band that can invoke ‘Covenant’ and ‘World Downfall’ in a manner of seconds and make it all roll seamlessly together is on the right path in my mind, they’ve got it and I only wish they’d thrown in another five minutes or so to keep the momentum going.

As much as I’d like to dissect and extract the sociopolitical importance of the lyrics here, I’m not sure it’d be all that illuminating to dive track-by-track through what I consider pretty timeless grindcore subject matter. Er, I mean you should do it on your own if you’re an 80’s hardcore punk kid at heart who finds joy in sitting with a record unfolded and soaking it all in as much I do. “Eden’s Tongue” is the exception here, if only because it has been explained in some detail, as the ~1 minute long piece expresses the dangerous self-distortion of reality among folks today where the construct of “them” and the “us versus…” creates a combative, dangerous narrative that can be bent to will anyone who disagrees out of existence. I love to discover, think over, and examine grindcore lyrics but ultimately the deciding factor on my part is admittedly superficial to some degree, it looks and sounds fuckin’ cool. Brilliant cover art from Steven Bower, killer sound that references indomitable underground classics, and ultimately the sort of album I could either slap on for a quick blast or dig into the lyric sheet for a few hours. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (77/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
LABEL(S):Carbonized Records
RELEASE DATE:February 19th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
Death Metal

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